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Why on earth should you have a MySchool card?

There are currently 1.2 million SA customers choosing to give back as they shop. How it works is that MySchool cardholders can nominate up to three beneficiaries and then swipe their cards at participating retailers every time they shop.  The retailers make contributions on behalf of cardholders based on a percentage of their spend, which is then distributed to the schools, charities or conservation bodies of their choice, at no additional costs to the shoppers.

Thanks to all the cardholders around the country, R 70,319,673.21 was raised last year for a range of schools, charities and conservation organisations.

I was chosen as a MySchool ambassador over the festive season and they gifted me R2500.00 to donate to a charity of my choice. I chose The Society for Animals in Distress so my funds was spent on the sterilization of 25 domestic animals in South Africa. Isn’t that incredible? Check out all the beneficiaries and retailers and get involved.

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Animal causes are a great favourite of the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet cardholders with an array of welfare and conservation organisations receiving significant funds through the fundraising channel. Over the last fundraising period, the National Council of SPCAs received R 326,107.74; while just over R 1 million was raised for regional societies, Sandton SPCA, Tshwane SPCA, Cape of Good Hope SPCA and Alberton SPCA, as well as the SPCA’s of Kloof, Durban and Amanzimtoti. The programme is also as effective at raising funds for the lesser known, more localised animal welfare organisations. For example, in the same time period, just by swiping their cards at till points, SA shoppers raised R 147,701.78 for the Highveld Horse Care Unit in Vereeniging; R 92,929.62 for the CartHorse Protection Association operating on the Cape Flats and R 272,086.33 for False Bay’s TEARS, The Emma Animal Rescue Society. Protecting the country’s dwindling Rhino populations is a wildlife cause that is top of mind for many South Africans, and shoppers raised a whopping R 2,483,344.39 for the MyPlanet Rhino Fund which is managed by the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

For schools and non-profit organisations across the country, MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet has become an important fundraising partner making a much-needed contribution to the on-going funds they need to carry on their vital work.  Shoppers get the opportunity to support the causes they care about, whether that’s improved education, a better society or a more sustainable planet. Get your card and be part of this straight away.

Animals in Distress

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Dear Future Homeowner

There’s a cool competition going with Property24 where you can win R24 000 for your home / bond. All you need to do is upload a video of you sharing your top tips to other people coming in to the market. You can also win one of two cash prizes of R2400. I’ve entered because I’d like to use that cash to finish up my kitchen and re-do the cupboards and shelving in my bedroom. There’s still so much to do in my little house. Here’s my entry:

 

A video posted by Natasha Clark (@therabbithaus) on

You can also upload your entry to Instagram and then share the URL in your entry. Find the entry form here > Dear Future Homeowner. You can view the current gallery and watch everyone else’s videos there too. There are only a few entries and the competition closes this Sunday, 22 January so your chances are pretty great.

The advice I shared was on looking at schools in your area before committing to a purchase. I’ve heard of so many people who have had to move homes to get in to catchment zones for schools, which would completely break my heart. I have a few other tips and I’m going to enter a few times, so look out for more tips and tricks in the gallery. Good luck friends!

Speaking of my home: I’m going to spend some time taking pictures of our house, because I haven’t really shared my renovation story or before and after pictures. I’ve put SO MUCH love in to this house, which I bought as an investment property for the boys. I’ll share more on that story with some pictures soon : )

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2017

I’m super ready for 2017. It’s such a cliche to feel this motivated at the beginning of the year, but I feel so fired up. Last year was all about new beginnings and setting things up for growth. Laying down the groundwork and foundations to keep building. Go taller.

I bought this house that still needs so much work, but it’s here. This year I’ll be re-doing much of the kitchen, sorting out the garden, putting in the vegetable patches and creating all the living walls. I want to plaster and paint the exterior walls too, which is going to be such an expensive project, but we’ll see if I can get it done. I learned a lot about money and investments last year, and the goal is to get this house to a point where a rental would cover the bond. It’s a far reach, but totally attainable. I think we’d only want to live here for another year before moving on to the next property. The boys (and Jack) definitely need more space so that they can grow too.

We set up the new classroom for our training facilities and we’ve signed four new, exciting clients that we’re kicking off in 2017. I love watching these projects take shape and come to life. We hired another team member and there’s another one coming in January. Delegating has always been my downfall, but with the right tools and people in place – I’m slowly learning to let go and not hold things back. Letting go has also created all this new time to get more creative and passionate about the day to day dealings, instead of shoving work down the production line.

Benjamin is starting grade ONE. He’s going to learn to read and write this year, and I’m so excited for him. He’s starting guitar lessons, and Noah is doing piano. The house is about to come alive with music and even more books and activity, which I’m really looking forward to. Watching my boys grow and learn makes me happier than anything else ever could. Motherhood is truly rewarding, exciting and wonderful.

With a bit more free time, I’m more dedicated than ever to my blog. I’ve missed writing here, and sharing my thoughts, experiences and stories. I opened up boxes of my old journals and diaries the other day – where I’d documented my life since I was twelve years old. Someone said that I’m so lucky to have that: all my thoughts, experiences and memories to keep forever. I want to keep remembering. I also feel that my writing is quite rusty and I need to keep practicing to keep my own little voice alive. I reached out on twitter and asked what you guys want to read more about, and it seems like you’re mostly interested in travel, food, lifestyle and personal stories.

I got the most beautiful email from a reader last week, and she said “Finding out about your blog might have been the best new year ‘gift’ for me. This morning my friend phoned me, and we talked. I was crying and then.. then she thought about you. She started telling me about your story and I felt hope.. hard to describe the feeling, maybe relief. I asked her for the link and immediately, I looked at your story. “I can relate”, I thought. There is hope, there is another chance for me. I felt ‘I CAN do this’.”

Receiving emails like this is what makes blogging so important to me. Writing about the harder times is difficult and vulnerable but we’re all just people, going through our own struggles. Fighting with our partners, losing friends, struggling at work, feeling down. Eating too much, eating too little. Dealing with our own insecurities and fears. Obstacles. Sometimes there’s so much going on that I can’t share on social media, but only to protect the privacy of those close to me. A lot has been going on, but it’s getting better now. Slowly.

Life is beautiful, and fragile. People are strong. We’re all so capable and fierce, even at our worst. I want to see us all try harder in 2017.

In 2016 I met a man who changed the way that I see a lot of things. Someone older and (I hope he never reads this) much wiser and experienced. He motivates me, makes me laugh until I cry and he loves me. Having someone so supportive and fun-loving at my side has driven me even more. Driven me mad at times : ) but more on that in another post.

I feel like I learned a lot in 2016 and I know that many of you feel the same. Some of you have big things heading your way, like new life, babies and marriages. New jobs and businesses. Opportunities, new cities – new homes. More travel. New love. Apparently (according to numerology) this year marks the start of a new cycle, and is the ideal year to make changes and go for everything you’ve ever been afraid of.

Happy 2017 to all of us. Let’s do this!

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2016.

I was scrolling through my Instagram last night and couldn’t believe how much has happened this year, and how much everything has changed. And I mean everything. Let’s get real for a minute, because I want to be able to read this again in a year’s time and really remember how this year felt.

In 2016, I started my first year as a single woman. I wanted to say “single mother” but I don’t feel that way at all. Graeme is a great, involved dad who sees them almost half of their time. What I really struggled with was NOT seeing them that much anymore. The first few months, I spent a lot of time at home. I threw myself in to work, which I love. I didn’t want to socialise and spent a few weekends in KZN, visiting my dad and childhood friends. I also watched the entire Sex and the City series from scratch. Then all the movies. Obviously.

I hadn’t dated since 2007. It was all so… weird. I started a life with someone at 23. The adjustment was difficult, but not awful. I missed the familiarity of being around someone who knew me, to be honest. I’m so proud and surprised at how unscathed the boys were by any of it. Noah slotted in to ‘man of the house’ mode and helps me so much. In the mornings, he gets up before anyone else and lets Jack out for his morning tinkle. Those tiny little things make such a huge difference around the house, and he loves any kind of responsibility.

I bought a house. I renovated a house. I found somewhere safe and happy for my boys to live and play and we made it a home – together. We danced in the lounge, we unpacked boxes and we ate a LOT of take-aways. On nights alone, I drank a lot of wine. We moved in to our new home on 1 July and that Winter was pretty tough.

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We had to say goodbye to our beautiful Daisy. Although we tried, our new garden is not equipped for two ‘farm’ dogs. She is a great guard dog, but her barking did not sit well with our neighbours – no matter what we tried. She is with my uncle in Durbanville and has become a friend to their Collie. She’ll always be in our lives and on family outings and camping trips, but we miss her so much. Every day. Losing Daisy was a hard blow on all of us.

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I got really good at filling my time and keeping busy. I tried dating and was pretty awful at it. I know that’s true because I watched a LOT of Sex and The City. I met the most incredible people this year. Kind, wonderful, driven and good hearted men. I also met trash. I’ll write about it eventually. It will have a catchy header like “The 3 Men I Dated in 2016” because I’ve learned that there are exactly 3 in every dating / MAN category. Again – so much educational value in Sex and The City.

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I met someone who is my equal in every way and who I learn so much from. Someone who scared the rabbits out of me. Someone who really loves me. I’m a really happy, lucky girl.

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I lost friends and made friends. I lost a best friend, which hurts a woman’s heart more than any man ever could – am I right? I respected my own individuality, because nobody should ever begrudge another for not conforming to their views or lifestyle. We can’t change or shape ourselves around other people’s expectations, and we need to accept and forgive each other for our flaws and faults. I learned so much about forgiveness this year, and what a gracious act it is. It’s one of the best and kindest gifts that you can give to someone.

2016 told me that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was. And that I don’t really care about anything that does not affect me directly. Some people call it privilege, I call it prioritising. I am not going to sit and argue feminism with you for 6 hours on social media when I could be working on a pitch, baking with my kids, running with Jack or drinking bubbly with my wonderful boyfriend. It’s not that I don’t care about women’s rights, it’s just that there is so. little. time. that I’ve learned to direct mine toward my priorities: The people who I love and who need me.

This year I took major steps in my business to give it room to grow. We’ve opened a classroom / training facility which is walking distance to my house. It’s such a pleasure to walk a few steps to the office every day – I really have landed with my bum in the butter here.

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I’ve taken a few knocks, made awful mistakes and really centered my emotions. I was all over the place up until about two months ago. Everything affected me. I found myself wanting to numb my heart with food, series, books, booze – any form of escapism that you could think of. I felt… lost this year. I have the most incredible friends who let me vent, lash out, act weird, be crazy and annoy them for like 10 months straight. A further shout-out to my long-suffering mother who could probably publish novels from our whatsapp threads. I appreciate and love my friends more than I could ever articulate or limit within the framework of words. You are truly beautiful people. I’m going to be a better friend in 2017.

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We ‘solved’ Ben’s asthma. After years of struggling with his tiny lungs, an allergy test saved the day. Also thousands of rands worth of special bedding, sheets, covers, cushions and mattress protectors because our little Bunny Banana is allergic to dust mites. It’s been such a relief to watch him grow stronger every week.

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Noah blew us all away this year with his passion for school, his new friendships and dedication to his schoolwork. He loves school more than anything else, and it loves him.

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That’s a wrap. I’m doing my Xmas shopping today and making the house FESTIVE for my boys who spent way too many evenings watching me work. I can’t wait to just be with them all day without any distractions. I’ll be a better mother in 2017. I’m going to be better at everything. Merry Christmas friends. I hope you have the most beautiful time with everyone who loves you.

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The Simple Things

Country Road asked me to showcase my own version of “The Simple Things” in life. Amongst all the chaos of work, school, personal projects and deadlines… What I love doing most is dedicating full, undivided time to Noah and Benjamin. We often do little tea parties where we’ll just hang out and enjoy each other’s company. Time without homework, chores and rules. I’ll make a big pot of tea and get us some delicious treats and sometimes we’ll play UNO or watch a great family movie or something and relax together for hours.

It’s sad how much kids have to do these days, from such a young age. Noah is in grade 1 and hates Mondays already. On that day they have mini sport, library and two 2 breaks. It hurts your heart to see how quickly they get thrown in to so much. They have 2 extra murals a week and swimming is coming back now too. It’s so important to me that they just get to relax with me, and forget about all the expectations that school already places on them.

So yesterday afternoon I fetched them earlier from school. I got to watch a bit of their drama lesson and laughed at their little performances. We had a long talk on the drive home and instead of hours of homework and routine, I popped by a local bakery, picked up some treats and let them have cupcakes and tea for dinner. I let them use mommy’s ‘fancy’ crockery (that I recently shopped at Country Road) which always makes them feel super special and grown up. Here are some pictures of my gorgeous boys, who I love more than anything else in this world. Looking at these photos made me stop and realise just how quickly they’re growing up too. It’s bittersweet, but beautiful. This is us at home, doing the simple things.

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screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-9-49-12-pmCountry Road let me select a few items from their store for our home to enjoy. I chose a dining set of their gorgeous white, grey and pink plates with matching cups. The wooden tray pictured above is also from them, as are the boys’ outfits. There are a few other items which I’ll share in my next post, when we talk bubble baths and lemonade stands. You can shop Country Road’s dining section here.

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People.

I’ve been living a lot of life these past few months and it’s been pretty great, to be honest. For a few years I kept to myself and focused on family, work, and a handful of friends. While these are all great things to have, I hadn’t realised how ‘safe’ everything was. I got gridlocked in to routine and managing other people’s lives. This is the great ballad for every mother, I realise.

When I did go out, I would always socialise with the same people. Go to the same places. Order the same things. Talk about the same topics. There was maybe 2 years of this and I’d never felt as ordinary. Last year I threw myself at everything that had ever frightened me, and it’s changed my life. The people I’ve met, the emotions I’ve felt – whether exhilarating or excruciating, it’s all changed me. I am terrified of boredom. Or being boring. For a long time, I felt so isolated by my own bangups, because there was no frame of reference. There was nobody new to compare bumps and bruises with. There were no new stories to hear.

September marks one year since I ventured to Paris alone, almost to the day. I’ll never forget getting wine-drunk on a sidewalk cafe with a girl I’d never met. She was about to go home to break up with her boyfriend of 7 years and we spoke about love for hours. The previous night I was discussing depression and happiness with bar staff at a cafe, where I’d ordered a take away but stayed for hours picking on a cheese burger and devouring french champagne. Taking photos of strangers for hours at the Eiffel Tower and seeing how much they appreciated the offer. Trying to tune in to the thoughts of people in the metro as the tunnel lights flashed across their distant looking faces. Crying on my own for hours in the station because I’d missed a destination that was so important to me. Feeling so incredibly alone and accomplished at the same time.

That bred courage.

I’ve been reflecting back on all the people I’ve met since then. Since January. Sometimes when I think about it for long enough, I get really sad. I wonder what it would have been like if I’d stayed where I was and never got to connect with these people from all over the world and right here at home. I met incredibly rich, successful people who are desperately unhappy – and alone. I met people who have enormous dreams and a passion so contagious that you felt special just sitting next to them. I met people who have problems that aren’t their fault. Who medicate themselves daily to feel alive at all. I met someone who felt like everything was on repeat, every day and he didn’t know how to stop it or wake up from it. I met a girl who pushed anyone away who ever criticized or disagreed with her. I met people to were addicted to escapism, not drugs. I met a boy who played pretend, with the loudest laugh and the biggest smile. He could floor you with his charm, but hidden behind that roar is a very frightened person who never takes chances. I met dreamers and chasers, players and lovers. And I don’t want it to stop. Even if it hurts.

Each person has taught me a tiny little baby thing. It really is true that if we all emptied our pockets, and put all our problems on the table – we’d all grab our own back. It’s true that life won’t give you what you can’t handle as long as you step up. You need to take chances to change your life, and even though I’ve been totally scorched and disappointed by people in the past year – I’ve learned who I don’t want to be or become. I’ve felt proud of myself for being able to handle punches. I’ve spoken about things that made me uncomfortable. I’ve hurt people. I’ve been hurt. I’ve banished barrels of insecurities because even the most beautiful women doubt themselves. The most poised are drowning in false pride. The loudest men are often the most afraid, the richest are actually poor and the bravest are the most accomplished. I’ve met people who are ill with mediocracy but completely happy. I don’t think that we’re supposed to be ‘happy’ or content. There should always be a new place or person to learn from. You should always have something that keeps you up at night, something that haunts you. Excites you.

There’s this movie on Diane Arbus’ life story that I love so much. She was a phenomenal photographer, and Nicole Kidman plays her in the adaption called “Fur”. As a photograher, she liked to capture uncomfortable, strange or interesting people. At the end of the movie, once she starts becoming this celebrated photographer… she finds her first subject, sits next to them on this park bench and says “Tell me a secret”

Image: Diane Arbus, New York Magazine

Image: Diane Arbus, New York Magazine

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I want to talk about divorce.

I want to talk about divorce. Specifically, mine.

I want you to know that the “D” word holds no negative connotation in our situation. There is no guilt, resentment or regret in my heart. Nor with my ex husband. It’s been 7 months. Maybe 8. The divorce itself was quick, seamless. Painful. It would be a lie to say that ending something that important doesn’t hurt. Perhaps just a bit less than we both expected. It was a 2 week process handled by only one legal representative who sought out the best interests for all of us.

What makes a marriage fall apart? It didn’t. I loved my ex husband and I know that he loved me. We love each other still. I don’t believe that you can share a life and raise children with someone and ever stop having a bond with them. It’s unfathomable. We created life together, from our own flesh. We shared love, and happiness and a bed. We shared tears and grocery bills and sometimes scraped to get by. We made joint sacrifices. We nested and moved cities, moved homes, unpacked houses and shared a bathroom. Our bodies. Our secrets. That kind of relationship cannot be undone and never should be. We are permanently bonded to the people who we shared ourselves with, in whatever shape that bond lives.

I married my best friend and tried to make him a husband.

Our relationship was based on a familiar friendship, love and compatibility. We foresaw these as the perfect ingredients for marriage. We are a great team. We were (and still are) used to and comfortable in each other’s company. There were a lot of missing elements and undiagnosed factors in our relationship that we didn’t recognise in the beginning. These factors of course enlarged and grew more important as the years tore in to us, no matter how hard we fought them; and trust me: we did.

We fought for each other, our marriage and our friendship when we probably shouldn’t have. We pushed each other’s boundaries year on year in total silence. We made each other lonely. We made each other sad, and restless – and we hated ourselves for it. I know I did. We sought qualities in each other that neither ever possessed.

This is the thing: You marry someone at a time when you are both happy and they fill your holes with the qualities they have. Like… (just examples) maybe you’re a needy person and your partner is an affectionate person: MATCH. Maybe you’re an unorganised person and he is tidy: MATCH – and so it goes. But then years go by and you mature and might find that you’re not a needy person anymore…  but he’s still affectionate. Now… he might feel rejected. Maybe you’ve become super organised but he’s still tidying up after you, so you might suddenly find that annoying. Controlling. Do you see where I’m going with this? We literally un-match as we grow, develop and change. All the bits and pieces that fit so perfectly can (and probably will) slide out of place and it is not. your. fault. It is not. his. fault.

But we make it each other’s fault, don’t we?

On the surface, and even in every day life: we were happy. We could easily have stayed in our marital home for another 10 years. I know that marriage is at times hard and lonely for almost everyone at some point. I strongly believe that it’s an institute worth fighting for. Being married really does mean falling in love with the same person several times.

I want to talk about marriage more because it’s a wonderful, beautiful thing that will rip your soul apart if you don’t give it room to be flawed. It’s not supposed to be perfect. You aren’t supposed to be happy all the time. It won’t fulfill you, and it might uproot everything you never knew about yourself. It will test you, and your sense of hope. When things get bad and you don’t know if they’ll EVER get better but you stay because you promised someone. Him.

You need to have hope.

With marriage comes all the other promises you made to each other too. It’s the breaking of those little ones that snaps the rope that holds you both together. At some point you might both just be standing there, each holding an end of the string and looking to each other for a solution. You can try to knot the pieces to join the string again, and after a few years your rope might be covered in knots and bumps and that’s okay because you’re trying.

Maybe what happened with us is that neither knew how to tie knots properly. Maybe we failed. Maybe we needed to admit that we didn’t have what the other person needed and we never did. I think there’s a maturity in that. An acceptance. Love, even.

We talk every day. We went through a natural adjustment period (read: borderline murder threats) but that was only for a few days. It’s kind of like when you fight with your best friend, and you annoy the hell out of each other…. then you call them a few days later, and it’s like nothing even happened. We hang out, socialise, give each other advice and play with the children together. We are almost exactly the same as we always were – we just don’t live together anymore.

We are going to be in each other’s lives forever. We made that decision when we had Noah – nevermind marriage. He is family. He is friendship, and he is a “daddy”.  At the end of the day, he is my best friend. We’ll still annoy each other sometimes, and we’re fully aware that we’re stuck with each other in the beauty of joint parenthood… and that’s pretty great, because he’s a wonderful father.

And that’s one knotted rope that can’t be undone.

 

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I love it so much

I can’t explain how much I love our new house already. I’m here right now and it’s total, beautiful chaos. My garden’s grass is overgrown and there is rubble all over my patio. The boys’ bunk beds won’t fit along the wall I WANT in their room, so I’m having custom ones made. Eventually. The house smells like paint and dust oh man the dust… One day in my eulogy please firmly mention how grateful I was that I did not live in this house while it’s being renovated. Like… yoh. So much respect for people who do live amongst construction because I would rather self harm. SO much has been done and there is so much still to do.

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I’m just so in love with this house. I know I bought it as an investment with The Plan being to renovate and rent out, but I kind of never want to leave? I’m grateful that I got to change it the way I wanted and that I can be here every day to just settle amongst the chaos and appreciate the changes as they happen. This neighbourhood is so great. I have never felt as safe, welcome and at ease in a home before. My bed isn’t here yet, but I slept over by myself last night and crashed on the bottom bunk in the kids room. No sheet (because where is that box even) with a spiderman scatter cushion (obviously) and no kitchen sink. No bathroom (they’re tiling it and no) and no coffee. Not even a kettle lives here yet. My plants are huddled in to a corner, my dressing table is in the lounge and every time I come here, I load my car with boxes and tiny little things that can’t be categorised in to a sealed box.

I played a game of pool at the local pub last night and ate 2 chilli poppers at the “stays open past 9pm” joint and walked to my front door with hand-rattled keys. I’m experimenting with different dishes at the local deli and hung a hook for my handbags today. I brought a tiny little bit of dishwashing liquid in a juice bottle and affectionately washed the 3 glasses that live in this kitchen already. The tiny little things.

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I’m taking screenshots of nice housey ideas that I find late at night and early in the morning when I can’t sleep because I’m so excited about living here. I bring the dogs for mini visits and we carry Jack down the stairs because he’s too scared to climb down them just yet. The WiFi was installed here yesterday and I spent an unshowered hour on the phone to technicians this morning trying to set up the router. I sent my new home phone number to my entire whatsapp list even though they never phone on my landline; I just want them to know that I’m here. That they can. Everything’s new and fresh and full of dust but it’s wonderful because it’s mine. It’s theirs. It’s ours.

I really love my new house. I love it so much. We all do. Mostly.

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I bought a house for you.

I sure did. I don’t know if I’m emotionally ready to talk about this yet, because it has been such an absolute mission. I started this process in November last year and when I saw this little house, I could. not. stop. I’d been looking for a little investment property close-ish to UCT that sits in a great neighbourhood and that obviously won’t depreciate over the next 11 years – when the kids move in and settle in to their studies. It’s a sweet 2 bedroom duplex in a tiny little block with a big wrap-around garden. The street is lined with big trees, it’s opposite a beautiful church and adjacent to a community garden and playground. There’s access to the train station close by, and it’s a quick walk to main rd on the current Jamie Shuttle route. There’s a lot of development going on in the area, with phase one recently completed. Man, I did so much research right down to the body corporate and their financials and maintenance plans too. There was a bit of a show-down between the seller and I, and on the third offer we finally found a middle ground.

Buying a house as a sole proprietor is a total nightmare. At one point I genuinely considered taking up a full time job just to make the banks like me more. I’ve always avoided credit and literally don’t have any. Not even a cellphone contract. Nothing. Apparently this is a VERY bad thing, and there were many tears over the phone to the credit bureau about my case. Buying a house with just one income and watching people across a desk comb through your bank statements and business financials is actually mortifying. Quick tip: It doesn’t matter if you can afford the bond or even twice the bond amount. It’s just not enough. So with no credit, no payslip and no joint income I set out on The Worlds Most Impossible Quest. And we won. Eventually.

The plan is to live in this sweet little house for a year or two and fix it up real nice. Then rent it out, and pay it off by the time the boys finish school. If you’ve looked at projected figures for university fees in 2027 then you should understand why I’m trying to cover as many bases as I can right now. Maybe I’ll live there as an old lady with many cats one day – who knows? But at least there’s something extra nestled somewhere.

I’m doing tiny baby little renovations right now, which pains me. I am not a DIY type of person. Even the thought of shopping for tiles bores me to actual death, but I’m trying to get in to it. My mom’s partner is a most excellent builder, so I’m kind of winning there. I’m so grateful to him, really. So here are some ideas and plans and things that I found on Pinterest. The first steps to making the place feel a little bit like home.

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Dairy is f*cking scary.

I’ve spoken about my very slow transition away from meat over the past year. Although many of my friends and family members have been vegan or vegetarian for years, I was pretty stubborn about it. Noah was a vegetarian for three years before I was. As I became exposed to more conversations about this lifestyle, my defiance started to break down a bit. I didn’t grow up on a farm and I had misconstrued views on how animals live and are raised in meat factories. Wholesome pictures of farmers and free range, happy chickens appear on most packaging in the grocery aisles. Jamie Oliver’s clips on meat manufacturing went viral, showing that ingredients found in household cleaning products and bleaches go in to beloved processed chicken patties and viennas. They say that everyone has their own moment of realisation. You can watch all the documentaries you like, but if something doesn’t resonate with you personally then you won’t be likely to make any switches. I mean why would you? You grew up on meat, eggs, milk and ice cream like every other kid did, and you’re totally fine. I get it.

I’m not a salesman. I’m not going to try bend or force your views and to be honest, I pretty much don’t care what you eat. I don’t know everything or even enough to educate you on anything vegetarian related. I can only really share what it’s been like for me, and how it’s changed the way that I live and feel. I’ve eaten the odd burger or lamb chop over the past year. I ate a slither of meat last weekend. Right now, I’m eager to eliminate dairy from my diet but I wouldn’t push the kids to do the same. I’m sure I’ll still eat the odd food item that contains milk, but I’m going to try.

I’ve become quite interested – no, passionate about nutrition lately. It’s always interested me and I’d really like to take some kind of course on food education. I want to know what (exactly) a carrot does to my body. Which organs does it feed? What happens if you eat strawberries and is orange juice really too acidic for us? I want to know why people are lactose intolerant, or what gluten does to some. Why do some people become addicted to sugar? What does it do to your brain, exactly? I want to know everything there is to know about food – it interests me like nothing else does.

Since cutting out, let’s say 99% of meat from my diet – I’ve definitely felt a switch. Cutting meat was mostly a health decision for me, but the ethical side obviously plays a role. The digestive system is something that really interests me, to be honest. I started reading books on it from varsity. My late brother had celiac disease as a young boy, so his digestive system completely shut down and he briefly malnourished until they figured it out. A boyfriend of mine had the same thing. We all have friends and family who have been affected by diet-specific illnesses such as heart disease or some cancers. We’re all suffering in one way or another under the greed of the food industry. Things do need to change, and we need to take care of and protect ourselves from corporations who don’t have our best interests at the forefront.

For me, the most frustrating reality is that so many (even highly educated) people believe that humans need to eat meat and other animal parts to survive, live and even to thrive. To succeed. Another misconception is that being a vegetarian or vegan is expensive. If you do tell people that actual science has proved over and over again that we do not need to eat animal products, then people get defensive. Mostly, they get defensive because you have just told them that they are eating flesh, harming animals, supporting conglomerates, and potentially jeopardising their own health for well, no reason at all. That they’ve been doing this voluntarily. That’s a hard piece of information to erm, chew on.

Now stop. I don’t think that eating the odd animal product is wrong. While I might eventually chat to the boys about dairy farms, I won’t (ever) ban them from cheese or yoghurt. I won’t deny them birthday cake at a kids party or the odd milkshake because this is a lifestyle that they can commit to personally, if they so choose. You need to give your child the opportunity to learn and discover things on their own count, I think. I still offer Noah meat all the time. I still believe that meat has a place in this world, but I feel it needs to be ethically sourced and enjoyed as a now-and-then and not a daily staple. While we don’t technically need to eat meat, we most definitely do not need to eat it every single day or at every meal. There’s also a sense of gratitude that needs to be incorporated. In some cultures, meat is prayed upon. The animal’s life is celebrated and considered. We’ve become so desensitised in our consumption rate that a cow is now just a whacky wednesday or something to mindlessly throw on a sandwich.

More than this, an animal has not given or sacrificed his life to you. It has been taken by force after it has lived (in most cases) a really awful life. These farmed animals are submissive and afraid. Might is not right. Just because you are able to overpower and kill an animal, does not mean that you have the right to do so. I support dozens of local butcheries and suppliers who go to great lengths to supply ethically sourced meat and seafood. Meat and meat eaters do not repulse or upset me. I’m learning about new things and I really enjoy sharing my feelings about all of this.

And it’s not just meat you guys. It’s GMO foods, pesticides and chemicals used in fresh produce too. I’m looking at the entire food system right now and trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.

I’ll probably always still eat the odd meat item every few months. Maybe I’ll make it a once-a-year tradition, I don’t know. I could never call myself a vegetarian or a vegan or even 100% a pescetarian. I don’t want to ‘disappoint’ myself or make myself vulnerable to being criticised. Most of us are so hard on ourselves every day, and I don’t think I could ever handle the pressure of a label.

What I am going to do, is be open minded. Learn. Educate myself on the food industry. I want to learn from others and keep this an open conversation. I went to the aquarium the other day and for the first time in my life, opened my mind to information about red and green lists on seafood. I’ve let people lecture and inform me without feeling defensive or raising any walls. It’s humbling. I’m inherently stubborn and I’m enjoying this more relaxed, or even mature acceptance of the information that’s so readily available to me.

I’d previously dismissed all documentaries or even communication about the dairy industry. My love for yoghurt, cheese and milk knew no exceptions. It was all fine, and as long as I ignored it; it would not affect me. Then this tiny video clip started playing automatically in my feed last week and goddammit it’s changed me. I made myself watch it again and again. I’ve always avoided the “Cowspiracy” documentary and hell I may as well watch it now.

I think that people feel that vegans are smug. Or mean. Forceful. Crazy, even. Remember that vegan and vegetarian people were exactly like you probably even months ago. Burger-loving, ice-cream eating regular consumers just exactly like you are. There’s a feeling of empowerment that comes with being educated about these things, like you know something that nobody else does. You know what’s really going on. It makes you feel aware. Enlightened. Worldly, even. And like any other good or powerful experience, you want to share that with others. They want you to experience what they are, and people share information in different ways.

I (well obviously) don’t like seeing clips of animals being slaughtered in my timeline. It ruins my entire day. Last week there was this video about a rabbit screaming while his fur was being plucked and I can still hear that godawful sound. I don’t need (or even deserve, if I may) to see that, you know. So I won’t do that to you. Sometimes I see something particularly interesting or articulated in a way that I’m not able to express and I might share that. This (really short and punchy) video clip I saw about the dairy industry is pretty safe, and tame. You should know where your food or milk comes from, and this is it. It’s a summary and narrated by a girl so cool that I went and watched all her other clips too. Here it is: Dairy is Fucking Scary

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